It all starts and ends with Jimi. When he began doing those hard crust rolls in 1967, nobody was doing shit like that.
– Fletcher Morgan
One time he came into my boulangerie in Marseille and you just knew that this cat had a different vibe. I did up a nice plate of gingerbread cookies for him, you know, the ones with the little raisin eyes and the big bellies. He ate two and then put the rest in his pocket for later. He was stoned, like always, but I saw him on the street later on breaking the cookies up, tasting the edges with his tongue, like you do, you know, when you’re copping some guy’s spices and so on. Sure enough next time I saw him was in America and he had the recipe down, except he was putting little oatmeal crisp hats on the men. I mean, it was just so far out that I wasn’t even mad at him.
– Reg “Skinny” Samuelson
People used to think I was Jimi’s girl, but it wasn’t true. I liked him from the start, of course, who wouldn’t? I was a sous chef in LA and I met him like anyone else, at one of those exhibitions he’d do for Fletcher’s restaurant. And we sort of hit it off. One night after we closed, he asked me to help him make some wet fondant icing. That’s something he could do in his sleep, but for whatever reason he wanted me to stay, so I did. He was sweet, very gentle. We kissed sometime later, after we were done. He just held me in his arms outside in a little rain and I could smell the icing on him. I brushed little shavings of it off his shirt and leaned up against his chest. His heart beat so slowly that it just about put me to sleep. Then he drove me back to this place I was staying at up in the canyon and we made love outside. When I woke up the next morning he was gone. And that’s how I became Jimi’s girl. That’s all it took.
– Sarah McAllister
We used to work long hours in the kitchen. The other guys would be around at first and we’d have the flour and lard and pans everywhere. But once it got to be late it’d be just him and me. I’d roll out a perfect crust and he’d look at me like I’d just spit in his apple tart or something. So I’d roll another but he’d already be working on something else. I’d have to scrap everything and just help him finish kneading a big loaf of pumpkin bread. Sometimes I’d just sit and watch. He’d smoke those damn Gitanos of his and when the sun came up he’d have a half-dozen loaves cooling on wax paper.
– Tony Whitting
Jimi tells me about this chick he saw down in the village and so we all hopped into this new car he had, one of those big American jobs. We drive like drunks down these streets looking for this chick’s place. We all knew he just wanted to fuck her, but we wouldn’t dare say that. So, we get there and the place is closed. But Jimi goes around back, pulls a key out of his pocket and we let ourselves in. The chick is in there, too, just drinking some kind of Amaretto, her bare feet up on a big table cluttered with half-eaten chunks of a very dark rye. He introduces her around as Esther something or other and then the two of them go upstairs in the lift. Me and the other guys find some apple butter to spread on the rye bread and we just wait. An hour passes. Then another. I’m there, right, and Duke, this white guy from Chicago who worshipped Jimi, and we’re all thinking, what the fuck’s going on. So, Duke goes to the front window and his car is gone. It was an Oldsmobile, that’s what it was. Anyway it’s gone. I knock on the chick’s bedroom door and she’s in there, literally just sitting on the side of the bed watching a chat show on the television. It was surreal. Behind her I see the window open and the drapes waving. She just hooks her thumb at the window, and says, ‘Jimi went out to get some yeast from the Chinaman.’ Like I’m supposed to know what that means. I’ve got twenty stories like that.
– Alistair “Big Boy” Turner
He quit my place and moved to London. He was in this whole heavy English pastry phase with all kinds of creams and sauces and what not. I’d hear from him once in a while, but to him I was just a damn bread maker, you know? I turned out 100 loaves of white and 50 loaves of wheat every goddamned morning. And who do you think taught him about that? Who took his skinny ass in at the beginning? And you want to know that I was short 100 bucks in the register the last day I saw him? Print that.
– Ed Ramsey
The beginning and the end of it really was this month he came back to America. I mean he was so big then that he didn’t really have to even bake anymore. He had a couple of Russian guys come in early and do all of his shells for him. Then he’d show up with about twenty people, none of them who knew shit about anything. He’d dump some strawberries in a bowl, sugar them, toss it all with some thin slices of lime or kiwi and drop them in the shells. He wouldn’t even touch the ovens. I’d like to know the last time he ever touched a damn oven, and then he’d go out back with his buddies and they’d all get high. It was ridiculous.
– Junior Miller
Nobody will admit it, but Jimi was the first to use brousse de Var in a kolache. He had been down to Prague with some fat guy who was his manager then, and they brought back these weird kolache recipes. But instead of fruit, Jimi started using this sheep’s milk cheese and cream for filling. The puffs were tiny things and I don’t know how he filled them with those big hands of his, but they would literally take the top of your head off. He served them once to this musician named Eric Clapton who he met at a restaurant opening in London. Later, Clapton tells the story to a reporter and says he met an outtasite baker who made these dynamite ‘cheese puffs’ at Fletcher Morgan’s restaurant. I couldn’t believe it; like that son-of-a-bitch Morgan needed more publicity. I was just getting started, and that kind of press would have bought me a year’s business.
– Warren “Tiny” Edgington
I knew things were bad when he stopped shining his own bread. Listen, if you aren’t going to mix or knead, then at least make the glaze and shine the crust yourself. But by then he had this kid with a big red purse of some kind who would come in and shine at the end. It was a scam, and I think everyone knew it. And the bread sucked, that’s the funny thing. But if he left behind a couple of loaves, we sold those right away. ‘Jimi,’ we’d say. ‘Jimi made this bread here today.’ You could get anything you wanted for it.
– Finola Shipman
You have to remember that at some point all he did was cherry pies. I mean he made the same fucking cherry pie everywhere he went. Now don’t get me wrong, it was a knockout cherry pie, big fucking bing cherries and he’d cut half of them and leave the rest whole. You get that real thick sauce that way. But the crust he’d get from someone else, and he even started using store bought tapioca. Listen, it was always a great cherry pie, but most of us were so damn stoned back in those days that who knew? But it was cherry pie every day for a while and everyplace the people just went wild for it. I remember seeing Jimi just before he died and I asked him if he could do like a dozen cherry pies for my restaurant opening, and he just looked at me with those little black eyes and said, ‘Make your own cherry pie, Slim.’ It just chilled me. And of course he was dead the next year, so that’s all I know about that.
– Sam “Texas Slim” Escallante
Ask Junior Miller about this, but for a while he used cold tap water when he made this sourdough bread. He copped the recipe from a cat who used to bake out in Seattle. Anyway, he’d run tap water through a colander filled with ice cubes. Stir it in with the yeast. I mean this is just suicide, right? But he’d go along like nothing, like it was Betty Crocker herself who said, ‘We’re just going to ignore the rising properties of yeast,’ you know? Anyway, this sour dough bread is heavy, and it’s absolutely breathtaking. So everyone on the west coast starts using cold tap water but not a single one of them can do it right. It’s like sourdough bread can only be made my Jimi now. Nobody will eat or order sourdough unless you tell them Jimi came by that day and made it himself. Damndest thing I ever saw. Maybe he swapped warm water under the cheesecloth, I wouldn’t put it past him. But that bread, shit, it was like nothing I ever tasted. A lot of folks want to talk about his pies or his cakes, but for me the sourdough bread was everything. Jimi was a bread man. He was a bread man when it wasn’t even a thing.
– Ricky Winkle
Volume 54, Issue 1
Special Issue 2002
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